How to Tell if You Have Combination Skin (And How to Care for It)

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Did you know that 65 percent of people have combination skin, making it the most common skin type? Despite my relatively expansive skin-care knowledge, I only found out that combination skin was the most common skin type just a few weeks ago while attending a panel with seaweed-based skin-care brand Repêchage, and it got me thinking—what does it really mean to have combination skin?

In pursuit of expanding the knowledge on combination skin, our experts walk us through the ins and outs of combination skin and how to care for it.

Signs of Combination Skin

“Combination skin is characterized by varying skin concerns across different facial areas, commonly exhibiting a blend of dry and oily regions,” begins Miami, FL dermatologist Dr. Deborah Longwill. “The specific types of combination skin often manifest as follows: excess oil production on the forehead, nose and chin, cheeks ranging from normal to dry, enlarged pores, and rough texture throughout.”

Celebrity aesthetician Shani Darden adds that the severity of discrepancies in combination skin can vary. “Combination skin can range from excessive oiliness in the T-zone and dry, flaking skin on the cheeks to a more mildly oily T-zone and mild dryness on the cheeks,” Darden says.

What Causes Combination Skin?

Darden explains that the origin of combination skin is one that is often confused or misconstrued. “This skin type can be genetic or it can be caused by the products you’re using,” she explains. “If you’re using the same products all over your face, it can potentially cause the oiliness or dryness to become more extreme, so you might need to spot treat areas of the face to get the right balance.”

Common Misconceptions

As with most skin-care concepts, there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to what combination skin means. According to Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD, combination skin is sometimes a “misnomer” that many patients and even professionals confuse with what is actually a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis. “The hallmarks of seborrheic dermatitis are the appearance of scaling around the nose, perinasal areas, upper forehead and scalp area. These are things that are very easily remedied with medications that are usually anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory in nature,” Dr. Schlessinger explains.

As Dr. Longwill explains, other common misconceptions include that the only oily area is the T-zone, only harsh products can control oiliness, moisturizer shouldn’t be used on oily areas and that all combination skin behaves the same way. On the contrary, Dr. Longwill assures combination skin patients that oiliness can extend beyond the T-zone, using gentle products is often more effective, properly selected moisturizers are beneficial to all areas of the face, and that, above all else, “individualized skin-care is essential; not all combination skin requires the same products.”

How to Treat Combination Skin

“Effectively managing combination skin requires a tailored skin-care routine,” says Dr. Longwill. “It’s advisable to consult with a local dermatologist to create a regimen tailored to individual needs, as skin reactions vary, but a recommended routine generally includes a gentle cleanser, noncomedogenic moisturizer and targeted treatments for specific problematic areas.” In addition to prescription creams as needed, Dr. Longwill recommends an array of gentle yet effective over-the-counter products that are often helpful in treating combination skin.

Best Products for Combination Skin

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Green Tea Cleansers

When it comes to picking a gentle cleanser for balancing combination skin, Dr. Longwill recommends a green tea cleanser for delivering non-stripping cleansing and antioxidant-rich hydration.

One of my personal favorites is the Innisfree Green Tea Amino Acid Face Cleanser ($12). I gifted this one to my mom last year, and now I steal it every time I’m back home and have even bought one for myself.

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Doctor’s Daughter Extremolyte Stem Cell Serum ($108)

This stem cell serum uses rich concentrations of antioxidants, green tea extract, sodium hyaluronate, glycoin and more to enhance elasticity and protect the skin from environmental stressors and light pollution, making it one of Dr. Longwill’s go-to’s for treating combination skin.

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RepeleniX Gyl-Sal 5-2 Clarifying Pads ($34.50)

Designed to rid the skin of dead skin cells while unclogging the pores, Dr. Longwill loves these clarifying pads for managing excess oil in combination-skin patients.

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Titanium Dioxide and Zinc-Based SPF

Suitable for protecting combination skin from harsh UV rays, Dr. Longwill recommends titanium dioxide and zinc-based sunscreens for shielding the skin without exacerbating oily areas. One great option is CeraVe’s Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 ($15).

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Repêchage T-Zone Balance Starter Kit ($70)

This is a personal recommendation, but as a fan of Repêchage’s seaweed-based skin-care products and as someone who got to attend their panel for the launch of this innovative kit, I highly recommend the T-Zone Balance Starter Kit for people who are trying to get started on their skin-balancing journey at home. This 5-step starter kit includes the T-Zone Balance Cleansing Complex, T-Zone Balance Toning Complex, T-Zone Balance Hydrating Serum, T-Zone Balance Moisture Complex and Honey and Almond Scrub for a well-rounded routine.

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Shani Darden Skin Care Triple Acid Signature Peel ($125)

“A two-step peel powered by a trio of acids to resurface and brighten, plus a neutralizing mask to deep clean and refine pores, this product is perfect to help support combination skin,” says Darden. “Step 1 features lactic, glycolic and mandelic acids to instantly remove dead skin cells on multiple layers. Step 2 is a soothing kaolin and bentonite clay mask designed to neutralize the peel, deep clean and refine pores by removing dirt and oil without over drying your skin.”

BUY NOW – $125

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